Google and Censorship: Courting Disaster

GoogleA recent ruling by the Court of Justice in Europe is requiring Google to perform a kind of censorship, which many say is only courting disaster in the long run. The new law that just passed in May, 2014, the right to be forgotten, allows articles to be removed by persons that are not only in the stories, but also by people who may have commented on the articles. On Wednesday, July 2, 2014, the Daily Mail, the BBC and many other British News agencies received notices from Google, stating that the giant search engine would be removing some of the content by each news outlet that contained what the European Court of Justice has deemed irrelevant, no longer relevant or inadequate personal information.

The court has ruled that upon requests from users, that Google must remove personal information about such users from all European search results. The information is still available elsewhere on the web, and can be accessed through hyper-links in remaining articles. However, backlash has been swift and hard for the search engine mega giant. Large numbers of people are outraged that the new law has far-reaching power. Recent articles, as well as those as far back as 2002 are being taken out of search results in Europe. Fears of censorship on the internet from Google by those living in Europe have some feeling that the corporate giant is on the verge of courting a public relations disaster with its users there.

Many people agree that it is of the utmost importance to be able to access information online. To be able to see what type of person someone is by being able to read about what they have or have not done. With the many various types of media available online, many people feel that being able to get ready, available information online, is a right, and it should be there when you type in a search and hit enter. A whole generation on the rise right now utilizes Google and regards that search engine as the go-to place to find the information they are looking for. Lots of users agree that if the search results vanish from Google, then they are indeed gone forever, regardless if they are still available online somewhere else.

In response to this ruling that they strongly opposed, Google has implemented a button on the bottom left of their homepage for non-U.S. countries, like Canada. Yet those in the publishing industry fear that the new law could be abused by those who have had an unsavory story written about them. The mentioned person in the article has the right now in Europe to contact Google and request the corporation to remove the story from their search results. As well, anyone who posted a comment on an article could also ask to have the story yanked from Google search results, as could anyone named in the comments section. Industry leaders also fear the move may also be used to stem journalistic freedom and downplay true journalism that is actually in the people’s best interest.

Google has also curbed its censorship by removing results of only certain search criteria, thus removing the need for courting complete disaster in Europe. For example, the 2002 article that was recently pulled was about 38-year-old Paul Baxendale-Walker, a solicitor who was facing trial for fraud. Now, when people in Europe Google Paul Baxendale-Walker, they will not get the results that would have been there a few months ago. However, if people were to Google solicitor facing trial for fraud, the story will appear about Paul Baxendale-Walker. This move from Google comes after the Court of Justice in Europe had specifically stated that the new ruling should not be directly applied to work done by journalists. As for the form that Google had up on their European homepage for the removal of personal information, within four days of being posted, Google says it had some 50,000 removal requests from users in Europe.

By Korrey Laderoute

The Washington Post

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